If American Land were Distributed the way American Wealth Is

The Congressional Budget Office confirms that the top 1% has tripled its income since 1979, while the upper middle class has increased its wealth much more modestly, and the rest of the country has seen only a small gain.

Just to be clear, the 1% are about 3 million, the 9% are about 27 million, and everyone else crowded into that little torrid strip is about 278 million.

courtesy http://27.media.tumblr.com/ tumblr_ltlc07b69D1qj171uo1_500.jpg

24 Responses

  1. I wouldn’t call it a civil war yet. So far, I’ve yet to see photo/video evidence of an opposition force of greater than platoon strength. When I see evidence of the opposition employing greater than company level strength in any given area, I’ll begin to consider whether this has attained the scope of civil war.

    • Pirouz, you posted your reply in the wrong thread… yet somehow it seems strangely appropriate here.

  2. the territory taken by the one percent would be gladly conceded to them if it were not a result of ongoing robbing and exploiting of 50 percent of the earth’s resources. (not a precise number, the mega rich are spread over the globe, doing the same, the biggest concentration of capital is still in the US though).

    the rest-waist of the process is then dumped out of the 1%’s habitat. the dynamics of the process are devastating and ill represented by the graphics as yet.

    to get back to the graphic as above: the pressure valve on the ten percent borders will burst somehow: the continuous grabbing of resources needs a growing world population, the main weakness: take less of a growing humanity is the tactic.

    my point: the graphic does not represent the interference of us mega-rich on the globe, and secondly neither does it represent the escalating dynamics of the process.

    m.

  3. I’d like to see a comparison map/chart that shows actual land distribution.

  4. Social inequality like shown on this picture is just one part of the while story. It is a bad sign for sure like excessive weight, but not critical.

    If the rich are socially responsible like they were in the early 20c, this situation can be corrected if necessary.

    Another really critical part is military superiority. In the early 20c US was not the only superpower, so the rich had to take care to avoid the military defeat.

    Now the top 10% see no restraints for their follies which is the real problem.

    • HJ, I would dearly love a reference or three to support the proposition that “the rich” were socially responsible in the early 20th centure.” I don’t believe even the Beards or Niall Ferguson would buy that notion.

      But i would whole-heartedly agree that the maldistribution of consequences has a lot to do with how a few of us humans can “afford” those $300,000 wrist chronometers and $140 million Superyachts and Gulfstream IVs and private islands hither and yon. The few get to “fart through silk,” as it were, and the rest of us get to suck increasingly unbreathable wind…

      And why does it seem, against all the violence of history, that the simple expectation, the demand, if you will, that there be a limit to predatory kleptocracy, is being effectuated by people who largely eschew that all-too-human urge to lop heads and disembowel and all that so-viscerally-satisfying stuff? Where so many are apparently being moved by images of righteously indignant men in white shirts, standing up to block the advance of “People’s Army” tanks, and similar acts of revulsion?

      • Mr. McPhee,

        I think the old robber barons were monsters, but patriotic monsters. They had an occasional understanding, that they needed to make concessions to avoid revolution. T.R. Roosevelt justified the first permanent income tax exactly on these grounds. They also wanted to live in the US, in reasonable safety, and have access to US resources and skilled labor. In those days the workers really were marching in the streets waving red flags. The rich confronted them, escalated, and lost decisively. For a couple of generations they learned their lesson, accepting tax rates of over 90% and prospering anyway.

        During this time the proletariat sort of unilaterally disarmed, de-radicalizing their unions and running in fear from any egalitarianism that might cost them their new suburban tract homes and big-block Chevys. Which left us wide open for Robber Baron 2.0, a bunch that has none of the virtues of the original. This time around, capital is infinitely mobile, there are plenty of nice places to live outside of America, and there are new growth markets, some of which do a better job of educating future workers than we do. Worst of all, we have all, rich and poor together, grown up in a world where traditional loyalties have been eroded, what Marx called the commoditization of all relationships. So why should a rich white guy regard a poor black guy as his fellow citizen, and take pride in his progress? In fact, why should we even love our own children if we can’t be sure that they will forever dress like us or talk like us or worship like us?

        So our allegiances are getting narrower and meaner and more short-term. Wreck America for a quick buck? Hey, why not wreck the world for two?

        • Super, general agreement, but I guess you and I have read and been taught by very different people, when it comes to the runup to and fall of the Gilded Age and American labor and capital.

          Those “patriotic” American capitalists and bankers had no problems supporting and further enriching themselves off the growing authoritarian regimes in Europe, or as with Henry Ford (who modeled a culture as significantly as Jobs has done — what’s the phrase?” ), who wanted to put soldiers with machine guns on the roofs of his plants to “keep order.” If patriotism is defined as “holding fast to one’s group,” and the kleptocracy is the group, I would maybe agree.

          Steinbeck on the Ford Fenomenon: link to goodreads.com

          Hitler on Ford: link to traces.org

          And of course old Henry was not alone in his antiSemitism: link to en.wikipedia.org

          Minimal concessions, just enough to keep the lid on while the more unruly were suppressed or co-opted. Nothing new there.

  5. Off topic, but Ennahda won 90 of the 217 seats in the Tunisia. That’s exactly what they said they won a few days ago, which is a little strange considering 8 seats were taken away from another party (for vague reasons) and given mostly to Ennahda just with the past hour.

    • There are now riots taking place in Sidi Bouzid. Sidi Bouzid is where the protest movement against Ben Ali began. They’re mad because most people in Sidi Boudzid voted for the party that is having its seats given to other parties.

  6. Wealth concentration is inevitable if we worship the free-market and capitalism as the basic ideology of our communal society. Both are proven to provide goods and services efficiently, but the underlying principle is very simple: make as much money as you can, any way you can.

    Buying politicians, judges, presidents, and whatever other appendages of officialdom that seem advantageous, is quite consistent with the underlying principle. And stock holders can get quite mad if the principle is not adhered to.

    Moving a profitable factory to China to increase profits is virtually a mandatory action for the pure of heart capitalist. As is cutting wages, cutting or denying benefits, outsourcing, deceptive advertising, … the list goes on. Eliminating jobs is always the mark of good CEO (watch the next day stock price), but he or she better have damn good reason for adding jobs.

    Pleading with Wall Street to stop wealth concentration is like asking a shark to become a vegetarian – it’s a shark, stupid. To keep the 90% from backing into the Rio Grand, it will take a bunch of social and business legislation, a bunch of tax changes and tax increases, and and a bunch of restrictions on the “any way you can” part of the underlying capitalist principle. Unfortunately, Obama will probably just invite the Shark down to the White House for a beer and fish dinner.

  7. My first thought, looking at the map, was: “Cool, i still get to surf in warm water!”

    But i do agree with most of the comments. An accurate census map, including topography would put the overall picture into stunning and shocking reality. The 1% live on the high ground, on the coast line, on the river views, on small patches of very expensive land. For example, much of the forested lands in the US are under private corporate ownership. Enormous tracts of ranch land, throughout most of the western half of the country are privately owned. Corporate farms compose massive chunks of farmland.

  8. There are some who have done very well for themselves fighting for the oppressed. Progressive authors, journalists, commentators, and film makers can make plenty of money, and a few have become rich through their championing of the underpriveled.

  9. Yes, a few people own the companies and manage capital, while most does not. But isn’t it more interesting to look at consumption disparity?

  10. Prof. Cole, do you know who created the infographic? (The attribution just links to Tumblr’s media server. Which I’m sure is talented, but no cartographer.)

  11. Does that map take into account property values? I feel the 90% have too much premium beach land on that map…

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